HSBC’s history and the oldest drug cartel

Phil Ebersole's Blog

The Opium War

HSBC bank branches are everywhere in my home city of Rochester, N.Y.  Many Rochesterians think of it as a Buffalo corporation, since its presence here is a result of acquisition of Marine Midland Bank of Buffalo.  But actually HSBC originated in the Far East in order to finance the British opium trade with China—the biggest and worst drug cartel in human history.

Le Monde diplomatique described HSBC’s origins in its on-line English-language edition.

HSBC — formerly the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation … is today one of the world’s largest banking groups.  But it began with maritime business and the opium trade. … …

Opium made up 70 percent of maritime freight from India to China, where it was sold to the Chinese by British compradores, despite all efforts by the Chinese authorities to stop it.

[Thomas] Sutherland understood that the time was right for a commercial bank.  In 1865…

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